Adorkable by Sarra Manning: review

10890319Adorkable by Sarra Manning
Stand Alone
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Atom
Release Date: May 24th 2012
Synopsis: Welcome to the dorkside. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Jeane Smith’s a blogger, a dreamer, a dare-to-dreamer, a jumble sale queen, CEO of her own lifestyle brand and has half a million followers on twitter.

Michael Lee’s a star of school, stage and playing field. A golden boy in a Jack Wills hoodie.

They have nothing in common but a pair of cheating exes. So why can’t they stop snogging?

My Thoughts:

“We have nothing to declare but our dorkiness.”

Adorkable is a contemporary novel that I found to be undeniably charming. The book is fun, adorable, and has a really good message. Adorkable also had an uncanny ability to make me laugh, which is always a good thing 😉 This might not be a contemporary filled with emotion and impact, but it was fun.

I admit that the plot is a little ridiculous and the circumstances in the book can be even more ridiculous. I myself probably wouldn’t have liked this book as much as I had if it wasn’t for one thing: Sarra Manning’s great characters.

First is Jeane Smith, who is now one of my favorite characters. Jeane Smith is the blogger (see? She’s awesome already) behind the famous Adorkable, has half a million followers on Twitter, is the queen of jumble sales, and isn’t at all afraid of being her. She can be really terrible, but even then she is sort of fantastic.

“Never shield your oddness, but wear your oddness like a shield.”  

Jeane is one of those people who, upon hearing that you don’t approve of them, will say, “So? I think I’m freaking amazing” and then walk calmly away as if you didn’t exist. I find that absolutely refreshing since there definitely aren’t many characters out there that are like that.

Michael Lee wasn’t as amazing as Jeane, but he was definitely good. I was actually surprised by how believable and honest he was written. Even though he is a genuinely good person, Michael Lee’s thoughts can be pretty unpleasant at times, especially when Jeane is being a little intolerable. But I’ve always valued honest and imperfect more than unbelievable and perfect, so me and Michael Lee got along just fine.

The chemistry and relationship between Jeane and Michael Lee: Perfectly written. Jeane and Michael Lee’s relationship is an undeniably messy one. The way it progresses is not the norm. But that messy relationship was perfectly written, and to be honest, even when Jeane and Michael Lee were verbally battling out, I wished that I was a character in the book so I could ‘accidentally’ push the two together.

Manning’s writing is great, with dialogue and narrative that really made me smile and laugh, making Adorkable a breeze to read. She seemed to know exactly what she wanted to write and understood how she was going to do it.

Adorkable is a very good contemporary and is one of the more refreshing stories out of the genre. I would recommend this book to lovers of fun, adorable stories with great characters. Oh, and also people who want to take a step into the dorkside. Because the dorkside really needs some members.


Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark: review

FreakboyFreakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Stand Alone
My Rating: 
4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: October 22nd 2013
Synopsis: From the outside, Brendan Chase seems to have it pretty easy. He’s a star wrestler, a video game aficionado, and a loving boyfriend to his seemingly perfect match, Vanessa. But on the inside, Brendan struggles to understand why his body feels so wrong—why he sometimes fantasizes having long hair, soft skin, and gentle curves. Is there even a name for guys like him? Guys who sometimes want to be girls? Or is Brendan just a freak?

In razor-sharp verse, Kristin Clark folds three narratives into one powerful story: Brendan trying to understand his sexual identity, Vanessa fighting to keep her and Brendan’s relationship alive, and Angel struggling to confront her demons.

My Thoughts:

Freakboy is the first Young Adult novel that I have read that properly addresses transexuality. And, while I am not going to pretend to know a lot about the subject, I do think that Clark did a great job at writing and portraying transexuality. Her characters are well-written and she obviously put a lot of thought into her story. This book also happens to be the first verse novel I have read in a long, long time, and even though verse novels aren’t really my thing, I have to admit that I thought the verse to be lovely and loved Freakboy even more for it.

Things I Loved:

* The reason why this story was written. In the first pages of Freakboy, Clark writes, “to every Freakboy and Freakgirl out there. You are not a freak. And you are not alone.” My heart melted a little when I read this. By reading those three sentences, I was immediately able to tell that Clark wrote this book because she genuinely wants to help, that she wrote this book for the people out there who feel like they aren’t in the right body. I know that the intention behind the story might not impact the story of it, but I just find it to be touching enough to not care.

*The emotion. Freakboy was a very emotional story that had some moments where I was on the receiving end on a powerful emotion-face-punch. Whether something sad or happy was happening in the story, Clark made me feel every emotion vividly.

* The characters. I thought Clark’s characters to be very well done. Their problems felt real enough that it actually hurt me a little when something bad happened to them (and, of course, my heart soared when something good happened to them). Brendan, Angel, and Vanessa are all archetypes but Clark was able to bring life to them. She was able to make Brendan, the person who felt miserable and freakish because of his sexual identity, Angel, the person who has already fully embraced who she is and going forward in life, and Vanessa, the girl who has devoted herself to Brendan so much so that he is basically her world and is struggling to accept what he wants to be, feel almost tangible.

* The multiple point of views were wonderfully done. Getting into each of the characters’ heads and seeing the world through each of their eyes really added to the story. I do wish that Angel and Vanessa (I know that Vanessa will probably get a lot of hate but I was very interested in her story) had more entries in the book, but that is only a small wish, as what Freakboy did with the multiple POVs is already great.

* The verse. It was lovely and exceptionally executed. I can’t even imagine Freakboy being told in any other form of writing. I didn’t expect to love the verse as much as I do.

Things that were so-so:

* The instances when Clark chose to shape her words into somewhat of a visual form. I do love the verse prose as a whole, but the shaping words into fireworks were a little distracting and could be annoying.

*Freakboy is very open-ended. Which I didn’t exactly like. I wanted more resolution, wanted to see what the characters made of themselves. The story does end with a hopeful and uplifting note so I didn’t hate it, but I wanted more.

Things that I disliked:

* Nothing, really.

Freakboy is a brave and powerful debut and is such of an important book. I can really see this book helping people accept themselves and also helping people learn to be more accepting. The book does have its flaws, but it is a gem and I highly recommend it!

Suicide Watch by Kelley York: review

16240541Suicide Watch by Kelley York
Stand Alone
Age Group: 
Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, LGBT
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: December 20th 2012
Synopsis: 18-year-old Vincent Hazelwood has spent his entire life being shuffled from one foster home to the next. His grades sucked. Making friends? Out of the question thanks to his nervous breakdowns and unpredictable moods. Still, Vince thought when Maggie Atkins took him in, he might’ve finally found a place to get his life—and his issues—in order.

But then Maggie keels over from a heart attack. Vince is homeless, alone, and the inheritance money isn’t going to last long. A year ago, Vince watched a girl leap to her death off a bridge, and now he’s starting to think she had the right idea.

Vince stumbles across a website forum geared toward people considering suicide. There, he meets others with the same debate regarding the pros and cons of death: Casper, battling cancer, would rather off herself than slowly waste away. And there’s quiet, withdrawn Adam, who suspects if he died, his mom wouldn’t even notice.

As they gravitate toward each other, Vince searches for a reason to live while coping without Maggie’s guidance, coming to terms with Casper’s imminent death, and falling in love with a boy who doesn’t plan on sticking around.

My Thoughts:

Warning: There is sort of a spoiler in this review. I say sort of since the synopsis makes it quite obvious it will happen.

When I finished reading Hushed by Kelley York, I knew that I absolutely needed to read another one of her works. Then came the day where I found Suicide Watch and bought it and eventually read it. And wow. This author has done it again. In just over two hundred pages, Kelley York made me love her characters, cry for them, and then feel hopeful for them and their futures.

Vincent Hazelwood’s life wasn’t exactly a nice one. Being sent to one foster home after the next, failing to make friends because of his break downs and changing moods. Until he was adopted by Maggie, a strong lady who was determined to help Vincent get his life together. She was his reason to try hard.

And then, on the day of Vincent’s graduation, Maggie dies of a heart attack, leaving Vincent completely alone. Vincent then starts to sink back into himself, reflecting on the day he witnessed a girl throw herself off a bridge and wondering if she was right to do that. During this time, Vincent comes across Suicide Watch, a pro-suicide forum and meets two people through it: Casper, a girl who wants to kill herself before the cancer inside her does, and Adam, a quiet boy who believes his mother wouldn’t notice if he died. These three people begin to bond with each other and also learn from each other.

The characters are the driving force of Suicide Watch. Vincent is a sad character that gave me the same vibes Archer from Hushed did: he gave off a feeling of loneliness. He’s introverted and has trouble creating relationships, though he wants to, and has times where his sadness consumes him, sometimes having to take pills when it becomes to much. I felt very sad for this character and cared greatly for him, constantly wishing for a good ending for him throughout the book.

Casper and Adam were also amazing characters. I loved Casper and her energy and determination to live what’s left of her life as best as she could. Her death made me cry buckets and really made me feel like there was something missing from my heart. The quiet, music-loving Adam felt very real and, while I didn’t find him to be as memorable as Casper, his character had impact.

York writes these characters with depth, and even with only just over two hundred pages, develops them as much as many longer YA novels do. Maybe even more. Their feelings never felt downplayed and were portrayed in a sensitive way. And the bond that the three were able to forge between each other was touching and well-written.

I appreciate that York makes it a point to show that a person’s situation doesn’t matter, that it’s the feelings that do. Sometimes a person feels very sad, though their situation isn’t the worst, and I liked that York addressed this fact.

“It doesn’t matter if it could be worse, because even those people living on the street could still say ‘it’s not as bad as it could be.’ You still feel the pain. It still matters. All this means nothing unless you have people around who understand you. People who get that, sometimes, you’re just…really, really fucking sad and it’s for no reason at all. Then you get pissed off ’cause you realize you’re upset without a good reason, and you feel even worse.” 

If there was anything that Suicide Watch lacked, I would say that it was a well-paced resolution. I loved the ray of hope that comes in the end, but the last couple of chapters felt rushed. Adding another fifty pages could have easily solve this problem.

Suicide Watch is a short emotional novel that I don’t think anyone should missed out on (it’s only 1.99$ on the Amazon Kindle store!). York really has a knack for write dark contemporary that pack an emotional punch. Fans of Hushed should also check this out. (I actually think that Suicide Watch is the better of the two great stories.)

Second Impact by David Klass, Perri Klass: review

Second ImpactSecond Impact by David Klass, Perri Klass
Stand Alone
My Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Sports
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Release Date: August 6th 2013
Synopsis: Kendall is football town, and Jerry Downing is the high school’s star quarterback, working to redeem himself after he nearly killed a girl in a drunk driving accident last year. Carla Jenson, lead reporter for the school newspaper’s sports section, has recruited Jerry to co-author a blog chronicling the season from each of their perspectives. When Jerry’s best friend on the team takes a hit too hard and gets hurt, Carla wonders publicly if injury in the game comes at too high a cost in a player’s life—but not everyone in Kendall wants to hear it…

David Klass and Perri Klass’s  Second Impact is an action-packed story will resonate with readers who have been following recent news stories are football injuries.

My Thoughts:

Sports, while interesting and can be exciting, are something that I don’t have much knowledge about, or have read much about. I have read some sports-related books, like the Dairy Queen series, but never came across one that made me really think about the pressure and risk that come with playing a sport, especially playing one of the more violent ones. But thanks to Savindi’s beautiful review, I decided to pick up Second Impact. And man, this novel is thought-provoking.

Second Impact, told through blog posts and emails, is about Jerry Downing, Kendall high school’s star quarterback, who is currently trying to redeem himself after he severely injures someone in a drunk driving accident in the past year, and Carla Jenson, a reporter for the sports section in the school’s newspaper, who has asked Jerry to also blog about the football season. Things start heating up after Jerry’s friend Danny (who is also a player on the team) gets hit on the head hard enough to get injured. Carla starts blogging about the injuries that a person can suffer from because of playing sports and if it is really worth it. But some people want Carla to stay quiet.

I was expecting a thought-provoking read when I first decided to pick up this book, but I didn’t expect for the book to be this thought-provoking. The novel shows the risks that come with football (and any sport, really), but also showed the positive things about it. And for the journalism aspect of the novel, it showed that some stories must be honestly told, but that there are also lines that should not be crossed. Second Impact really got the gears on my brain turning. Is risking such horrible injuries worth playing the game? Should football be banned? Will it be banned? Should people keep quiet about some things? Why are people who say their opinions are ostracized? Are sports becoming too important? My mind was filled with thoughts and opinions by the time I got to the last page.

What I believe makes Second Impact so thought-provoking is how the story is told through two very different perspectives, with each perspective having a different view on things. Jerry being the one who loves football and thinks the risk is worth it, and Carla (who happens to be a former soccer player) being the one who questions the worth of playing a sport when there is such danger. Both of these perspectives have something great to offer and are very interesting. It also helps that both characters feel believable and realistic.

Jerry is a character that I found easy to love. He is passionate, hard-working, and very honest. He knows he has made a terrible mistake in the past and he really works at redeeming and proving himself. And his love for football and writing is absolutely contagious. I felt excited whenever he wrote about a football game and just really enjoyed the parts of the book that were told through his eyes as a whole.

Carla is also a great character that I found just as engaging as Jerry. When she is wanting to do something, she puts all she has into it (I still can’t believe she went through a surgery awake). She’s brave, strong-willed, and is a force to be reckoned with. Carla doesn’t hesitate when it is time for her to stand up for herself and to voice her beliefs to people. The writers did a job well done with her character.

It is undeniable that David and Perri Klass are great writers. They really know how to tell a story, make you pumped up, and think. And the prose is pretty strong also. But I couldn’t bring myself to love the format of how the story was told. I think that writing Second Impact though first-person narration and not with blog posts and emails would have been much better. This might be different for other people, of course, as the authors do an amazing job with the blog posts and emails– I just didn’t feel completely in love with the format.

Second Impact is an excellent novel about football and journalism that will keep a person reading until midnight (well, it kept me up ’till midnight). If you have read Dairy Queen and want to read something more serious and mature, this is the story for you. Or if you just want to read a book about sports, this book is for you. Or do you want a story that is extremely thought-provoking, again, this is for you. Second Impact will be able to appeal to all kinds of readers, I believe. I highly recommend it.

Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto: review

LizardLizard by Banana Yoshimoto
Stand Alone
My Rating:
4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Release Date: First pub. 1993
Synopsis: I shall refer to her as Lizard here, but not because of the small lizard tattoo that I discovered on her inner thigh.

The woman has round, black eyes that gaze at you with utter detachment, like the eyes of a reptile. Every bend and curve of her small body is cool to the touch, so cool that I want to scoop her up in my two hands.

This may bring to mind the image of a man holding a bunny or a chick, but that’s not what I mean. What I imagine is the strange, tickling sensation of sharp claws scampering around in my palms. And then, when I open up my hands to take a peek, a thin, red tongue lashes out. Reflected in those glassy eyes, I see my own lonely face, peering down, looking for something to love and cherish. That’s what Lizard feels like to me….

My Thoughts:

I decided to read Lizard as my introduction to Banana Yoshimoto’s work because of the Japanese Literature Challenge’s Short Stories theme for July. And I have to say, reading Lizard was quite the experience. This anthology had a very dreamy, peaceful feel to it that also came with an air of melancholy. The stories in this book are not exactly happy and they are not exactly sad either. It was strange, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

In Lizard, there are six stories. A story about a man on a train meeting an incredible person, a story about a couple with dark childhood secrets, a story about a man and woman talking about memories and how to know which ones are necessary, a story about a woman who is in a relationship with a married man, a story about a lady who runs away from the village her parents spent ten years of their life in, and a story about a woman who escapes from a life filled with parties and sex.

These short stories that are compiled in Lizard were written to be literary. The conflicts can be vague at times and sometimes not even faced. The short stories just tell what happened in the days the reader gets to see of a certain character, though there is always something to be taken and put into the heart from them. I liked that about Lizard. How it’s only goal was to depict only a number of days of a character’s life, and after it succeeded in that, it was the reader’s turn to reflect on them.

From what I got see from Yoshimoto’s writing from the translation, I feel that her writing is the kind of writing that makes a person feel very light inside. I find it hard to explain, but for some reason I feel very light whenever I read a passage from Lizard. It was like being taken by the hand and guided. And some passages are just simply beautiful. And yes, I am still quite taken by her name.

“At that moment, I was truly without words. I realized that the world didn’t exist by virtue of my mind. On the contrary, he and I and everyone were swept up in a great whirlpool, swirling around constantly and not knowing where we’re bound.” -Pg. 172

Short review is short, but I just wanted to share my experience with Lizard in a few short paragraphs. It was a beautiful anthology and I do not regret reading it. In fact, I am eagerly awaiting the next change to read a full-length story by Banana Yoshimoto.

A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin: review

A Really Awesome MessA Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin
Stand Alone
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release Date: July 23rd 2013
Synopsis: A hint of Recovery Road, a sample of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and a cut of Juno. A Really Awesome Mess is a laugh-out-loud, gut-wrenching/heart-warming story of two teenagers struggling to find love and themselves.

Two teenagers. Two very bumpy roads taken that lead to Heartland Academy.
Justin was just having fun, but when his dad walked in on him with a girl in a very compromising position, Justin’s summer took a quick turn for the worse. His parents’ divorce put Justin on rocky mental ground, and after a handful of Tylenol lands him in the hospital, he has really hit rock bottom.

Emmy never felt like part of her family. She was adopted from China. Her parents and sister tower over her and look like they came out of a Ralph Lauren catalog– and Emmy definitely doesn’t. After a scandalous photo of Emmy leads to vicious rumors around school, she threatens the boy who started it all on Facebook.

Justin and Emmy arrive at Heartland Academy, a reform school that will force them to deal with their issues, damaged souls with little patience for authority. But along the way they will find a ragtag group of teens who are just as broken, stubborn, and full of sarcasm as themselves. In the end, they might even call each other friends.
A funny, sad, and remarkable story, A Really Awesome Mess is a journey of friendship and self-discovery that teen readers will surely sign up for.

My Thoughts:

A Really Awesome Mess is a book that will really make you think and reflect–and make you severely addicted and laugh out loud. I seldom find stories like A Really Awesome Mess, stories that touch upon serious, sometimes dark subjects, but still manage to be lighthearted, fun, witty, and highly entertaining. Because of the fact that me coming across these kind of stories are rare, I consider A Really Awesome Mess to be a real treasure.

What A Really Awesome Mess tells is the story of a group of teenagers living in a rehabilitative school, Heartland Academy (dubbed Assland by our group of characters), and trying to get through their problems, problems some of the characters are in denial of having, and maybe do some crazy shenanigans while they are at it, told through the perspectives of Emmy, a girl who is suffering from an eating disorder and other problems, and Justin, a boy who has clinical depression.

Being a novel that is driven by its characters, the characters that the story contains are the most significant part of A Really Awesome Mess. And I think that Trish Cook and Brendan Halpin do a fantastic job at writing these characters and their problems. Emmy and Justin are instantly engaging narrators, both with their own unique personality and problems that are extremely relevant to teenagers.

Emmy, the first narrator to be introduced, immediately got my attention with her realistic characterization and narration. Her character is filled with anger and resentment, resentment and anger because of the fact that she is the different one in her family, being adopted from China, and resentment and anger because of the racial slurs constantly being aimed at her, because of the bullying she went through at school and the bullying she later dealt out herself as revenge, and the negative view she has of her own body.

Even though Emmy is a hilarious narrator, I could really feel the problems and emotions deep down inside her, painfully so. Her character has a lot of room for growth in the beginning room that she does later grow into. I loved Emmy and her story of growing and healing.

Justin is an equally engaging character as Emmy, and even more so in particular moments. I admit that he doesn’t come off as a very sensitive person in the beginning. To be frank, he is actually a bit of asshole, as he does have a lot of moments where sexist, racist, and insensitive, mocking things spill out of his mouth. He’s an angry person. Angry at his father, himself, and sometimes his whole family. And then there are times when he just feels empty for long periods of time and really pained after that. A good deal of his problems came into being because of his struggling with clinical depression, which I thought was executed realistically and honestly.

I have no experience with depression and neither have any of my family members, but I believe I know enough about it to really think that Cook and Halpin handled Justin’s depression brilliantly. They show the sadness, pain, struggling, and hopelessness that comes with it and they also show the happiness and gradual healing, though depression never does go away, really. At the end I really think that Justin had grown a lot as a person and will be able to live through life strongly, even with depression.

The side characters that Cook and Halpin created are colorful and deserving of great praise. Never did I think of these characters as flat and lifeless. Mohammed, Diana, Jenny, and Chip were characters that leave impact with their personalities and backstories. Add to the fact that they all have a great chemistry with each other and the two leads and you got a terrific gang of awesome characters.

And even with these characters that can be great fun and the heartwarming story of healing that comes along with them, the authors still thought to add some More to A Really Awesome Mess. And that More is total utter chaos and weirdness. Really, you have runaway pigs, replacing the word heart with the word ass (My Achy Breaky Ass, Assland Academy, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ass, I’m not making this up.), and some veerryyy interesting conversations. Calling A Really Awesome Mess a really awesome mess wouldn’t be to far off the mark.

This isn’t a gritty, edgy read, but if you are looking for a fun, heartwarming one that can go on some very weird tangents, I wouldn’t be able to come up with a better recommendation than this. Cook and Halpin made a real good story that is a must read with their efforts. And really, this is one of the most unique “issue” books out there.

I received this an advanced copy in exchange for a honest review via Netgalley

Inu X Boku SS by Cocoa Fujiwara: series review (kind of…)

Just ignore these stupid covers…

Inu X Boku SS Vol.1-4 by Cocoa Fujiwara
Series: Youko X Boku SS #1-4
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Shounen, Romance, Humor, Paranormal
Synopsis: The Shirakiin house’s daughter, Shirakiin Ririchiyo, who has a complex about being unable to live independently and unprotected, feels the need to move out and live on her own under the condition of residing in the mansion named “Ayakashi Kan.” In this mansion, only those who have cleared a very strict examination could reside in it, and for each resident, they are accompanied with one agent of the Secret Service (S.S.). Although Riricho has rejected the company of the S.S., while residing in the mansion she finds out that the agent dedicated to protecting her is actually the Fox Spirit whom she previously rescued.

My Thoughts:

I first found out about Inu X Boku SS because of the anime adaption, which aired last year. I was sort of enamored by the whole show so I decided that reading the manga wouldn’t be  a terrible thing to do, despite the suggestive and highly embarrassing covers. I’m glad I did. Inu X Boku SS is now one of those manga that I always revisit whenever I feel down and want to bust out laughing more than a few times.

Inu X Boku SS is far from being a perfect manga–so, so far–as sometimes the storytelling is a little messy and the paranormal aspect that is promised only shows itself a few times. But there is a certain loveliness that the series contains. The manga is funny, well-meaninged, and often times heartwarming, even with its flaws. Also, I consider the first four volumes as one complete series (hence the ‘kind of’ in the post’s title), since the mangaka decided to take a huge U-turn with the story (apparently, the first four volumes were only the prologue) and I didn’t like it very much.

The story opens up with Ririchiyo, a closed of girl with a sharp tongue, arriving at the Ayakashi Kan Mansion, a place for people with demons blood to reside, in hopes of becoming more independent and to escape her family. Unfortunately, it turns out that the mansion is filled with a bunch of weirdos, including an overzealous bodygaurd, that just won’t leave her alone. But strangely, Ririchiyo starts to realize that she might actually like them and even be breaking out of her shell.

I usually find that manga whose purpose is to make readers laugh tend to heavily rely on a simplistic premises and really, really over the top but easy to love characters. Inu X Boku SS is no different. It has a simple “I’m living with wackos and becoming a happier person because of it” story that is very flexible and characters that are extremely, well, weird and can still be loved. You can’t exactly complain about anything, unless you only like realistic characters, which you are SO not going to get here.

The residents of the mansion includes a pervy yet still awesome lady named Nobara, a quiet girl who can always be found munching on something (until she can have food, she wants food) and can turn into a gigantic skeleton named Karuta, a boy who is absolutely determined to be a bad boy, but just can’t do it properly, named Watanuki, a guy with bunny ears who is an endearing, random troll named Zange, a carefree guy who can turn into a freaking carpet named Renshounen, and a sadist who is obsessed with S&M named Kagerou. These supporting characters and their interactions with each other alone are enough to make a person laugh. And this isn’t even including the two main leads.

Ririchiyo and Soushi, her bodygaurd, are the spotlight of the series and are perfect example of the seriousness Inu X Boku SS can have of it wanted to. In the beginning, Ririchiyo seems like an anti-social person with a bad habit of insulting people but want to change and desires to be independent. I can’t exactly describe Soushi without making him sound like a complete creep… He is clingy, obsessive, and worships the ground Ririchiyo walks on. Simply put, he’s kind of a parody of all the clingy boyfriends out there. These two personalities often clash, normally causing hilarity to ensue.

She didn’t even leave him for a day.

In reality, though, the two are similar. Ririchiyo’s insults are part of an automatic defense mechanism (that she tries hard to change) that came to be because of the harsh bullying children put her through and the neglect from her family. Soushi, also bearing a bad childhood, had no self-esteem, zero self-worth, no emotions, and very vague sense of self, due to the terrible way he was raised, until he ‘met’ Ririchiyo. This is not only sad and gives extra depth to the characters, but it is also very unexpected from a romantic comedy manga. They will still make you laugh a lot, but you will always know that there is more purpose to them than just being comedic.

My favorite part of Inu X Boku SS is Ririchiyo’s story of meeting the people living in the mansion, befriending them, and coming out of her shell. They accept her for who she is and she accepts them for the crazy people they are. Her story is heartfelt and I loved it. Plus, the interactions she has with all of the residents are hilarious.

The romance in this manga is an aspect I am conflicted on because of the seven year age difference between Ririchiyo and Soushi, and Soushi’s… clinginess. I can’t hate the romance, though. The two really do help each other change for the better. So awhile I can’t say Soushi is boyfriend material (I think that many will agree with me), I wouldn’t say his relationship with Ririchiyo is unwelcome. There is also a little romance between Karuta and Watanuki, though it is mostly Watanuki blushing whenever Karuta says something sweet to him. It’s adorable and I totally ship them 😛

Fujiwara’s art is beautiful, with pretty characters and backgrounds. The only problem I have with the character designs, which are stunning, is the shortness of the teenage girls, Ririchiyo and Karuta. They aren’t so short that it is laughable, but compared to the most of the guys in the series, they look like preteens, which does make the relationship between Ririchiyo and Soushi, who actually looks his age, a little harder to accept. As a whole, though, the art is gorgeous and expressive.

Inu X Boku SS is one of those manga that I just can’t stop revisiting over and over. The comedy, characters, story, and art make it a lovely manga that will make you laugh, smile, and occasionally “d’awwwww” to no one in particular. It isn’t the greatest manga I have ever read, but I love it all the same. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, since the comedy can get a bit sexual at times due to a couple of the characters being, well, perverted, and Soushi may rub people the wrong way, though I liked him.

Shudder by Samantha Durante: review + giveaway


Shudder (Stitch Trilogy #2)Shudder by Samantha Durante
Series: Stitch Trilogy #2
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult/New Adult
Genre: Dystopia, Romance, Science Fiction
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: June 15th 2013
Synopsis: It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa’s life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she’d counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she’d thought she’d tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she’s discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering “stitch” unlocked something in Alessa’s mind, and now she can’t shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers – and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world’s sorry history – will soon leave Alessa reeling…

The second installment in the electrifying Stitch Trilogy, Shudder follows Samantha Durante’s shocking and innovative debut with a heart-pounding, paranormal-dusted dystopian adventure sure to keep the pages turning.

My Thoughts:

There is just something about the Stitch series that makes reading it pure, genuine entertainment.  When I read Stitch back a few months ago, I was in awe of the refreshing, new world of Paragon that Samantha Durante had created and the story that came with it. Now, after I have read Shudder, I am in awe of the exciting action, endearing characters, and the story.

The beginning of Shudder is what happens right after the end of Stitch. Alessa and Isaac have escaped from Paragon and are now exploring the deserted world outside of it, in search of base for the rebels. But Alessa, Isaac, and the reader soon find out that the weather conditions are the least of their worries. The threat of the monstrous, strange creatures following them and the fear of a disease that may or may not be gone looms over their heads. There is also the fact that unknown (and not-so unknown) visions and emotions that have been sparking inside Alessa’s head.

And as the pages turn, some more characters are introduced, and so are their stories. The boy named Nikhil who is trapped in a prison where his only company is a person that goes by the name of 14 and a girl who has woken up with no past memories called Pheonix who is just being introduced to the workings of Paragon. Through all these characters, as the reader learns about them and watches how their stories unfold and connect, information about Paragon is revealed and an exciting story of survival and rebellion kicks off.

Alessa, Isaac, Nikhil, and Pheonix really do shine in this installment. I cared for each and every one of them and thoroughly enjoyed reading their stories, which is the best part about the experience of reading Shudder ,I think. All these characters have depth and are extremely sympathetic, with fluid character development.

Since there are quite a bit of main characters in this book, there are quite a bit of point of views that the story is told through. I believe that Durante pulls off the multiple point of views with skill: the transitions between character to character are smooth and never feel unnatural or jarring, each character’s situation has a different aura to it, I could immediately tell which character I was currently reading about, and I never felt bored or impatient with a certain character’s chapters.

Stitch was very slow in the beginning, sometimes making a person impatient for what the synopsis promises, but Shudder had absolutely no problems like that. The story begins with excitement and action, keeping a perfect pace throughout the whole novel. My fingers were constantly ‘flipping’ the pages on my Kindle and I admit that it was really hard to stop.

Just like in the first installment of the series, Durante’s writing is compelling and easy to read, making it easy for the eyes to simply glide over and process the words with ease. I would even say that Durante’s already good writing has vastly improved. The world building is still absolutely captivating, though I believe it still hasn’t reached its whole potential.

One major quibble of mine centers on a scene in which Alessa and Isaac sit down and talk about how the disease affected them. The dialogue felt awkward, making the whole scene come off as lazily written. I think that it would have been better if the author had simply sprinkled the information throughout many different conversations instead of just one.

Overall, Shudder is a solid second installment of a trilogy that is not a victim of the famous Middle Book Syndrome. I am absolutely in love with the quality of this series and believe it to be a great example of what a self-published book series can be. I merely ask that Durante keep up the awesome work 🙂

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